The Book of Sanam

Chapter One. The Book of Sanam. Chapter Two. What does this mean? What is a sanam you might ask. And you might assume – well – this is a book about something I don’t know about because this is a word I do not know. Or perhaps it is poetic license and that I have made up this word. Or an acronym for some kind of movement or self-help therapy. Or if you play with letters and pronunciation, it could be about sun-tan lotion or such products that have to so with things that begin with S. Of course, for any Iranians who might be reading this you will have no doubt of what this is about… although the extent might not be clear at this moment… but you will know that this is a girl’s name. As for the second part of the girl’s name… it has an A in it… some N’s, and I believe there is also a SH in there. For some reason the second name refuses to stick in my head either in spelling or in pronunciation and for that reason and that reason alone I do not know it without looking in my agenda. Chapter Three. I see no need for chapter breaks since this is an on-going story of which I know not to where it will lead. Chapter Four. We met in the rain and continued meeting on the bridge between the Polish and German borders. For any Americans who might be reading this, do not think that this is anything out of the ordinary. It was just an ordinary bridge crossing an ordinary river separating two very ordinary land masses, one of which was called Poland and the other of which was called Germany. What I was doing on the bridge in that part of the world has something to do with a non-entity called Dirk who suffers from a carrousel syndrome in which all horses have to be slightly different but otherwise exactly the same serving the same function to all customers who buy the ticket. But since he is a non-entity in this affair, we can delete the above references to his person. Chapter Five. It was raining on the bridge which was ordinary for the season but what was totally extraordinary about the bridge – which I have already indicated as being ordinary – is that it was closed… or rather… there was a checkpoint that rendered it closed… in other words… it was a worse than useless bridge. It was quite outrageous to be at yet another checkpoint, one so totally unexpected by the several hundred people waiting to cross the river for their varieties of reasons. We were led to believe that the Polish side the bridge had located a bomb from World War II that very morning and this was the reason for the delay… and the checkpoint. Yet of the hundreds of people on the bridge and on the approach to the bridge which was now covering half the streets of the cities on either side of the bridge, none of us had even been a thought during World War II so what they were checking at the checkpoint remains an unanswered question and if anyone reading happens to be Polish than maybe you could explain to some extent what the problem was on the particular morning in question in the rain. And it was on this bridge that the Book of Sanam starts. Chapter Six. From the very first moment, as far back as Chapter Two which took place walking to the bridge, the conversation didn’t stop. There was no particular subject and no particular order of subjects. The subjects kept coming and the words were only interrupted by the hiccup of giggling which gave way to larger laughter. The friends and the bystanders witnessing the conversation but who found no place for their words in it nevertheless wanted to try to take turns inserting words and beginnings of sentences that couldn’t go anywhere because the conversation was already way into another subject by the time their words found their way to our ears. We eventually crossed the bridge but it no longer mattered since neither side of the bridge no longer had a place in the conversation nor did the activity that happened on the other side of the bridge which we no longer remember what was but definitely has something to do with the deleted Dirk. Chapter Seven. It stayed raining and perhaps the flooding is the good explanation of why we didn’t and wouldn’t stop talking. Chapter Eight. One day became another and there was still no shortage of topics and again they were in no order regarding content or size. Of what were the subjects? Not being the colour of glue in a place where everyone else is the colour of glue. Drugs. Mother’s illnesses. Ex’s, husbands, and the ones we want to kill. Bad directors, bad plays, and Dirk. (One begins to wonder if he should be deleted.) Ice-cream and preferred flavours. Sisters and brothers. Moslems and Jews. Friends… good, gone, and neighbours. Rain. Sun. Tehran. New York. Berlin and all the other countries. Politics in depth and in shallow. Meat. The person who insisted on talking to us. Fathers briefly but enough. Talents. Fuck-ups. Some spice that made the food red. Bailey’s. And so the list can go on. You can add at will. Chapter Nine. It was still raining when we had to ask those around us to leave us alone so we could say goodbye and if any of you reading this is from Hebron you can only imagine the dangerous thoughts that go through the heads of the bystanders when they hear such a request. As for the good-bye, it was done with some rather odd words such as I can’t believe I’m falling in love and then yes and with someone twice your age. And then there was the roar of laughter. Chapter Ten. Email is like Typ-Ex. It has a definite function in a specific time and place and we never know who we ever lived without it. And like Typ-Ex, email will never keep a relationship alive. So the messages came in and out, once, twice, thrice and then everyone got back to life and to being busy and it was no one’s priority to communicate via the speed of the send button. Chapter Eleven. If you come from China to New York you naturally assume that Kentucky is walking distance. And so it is that the distance between Amsterdam and Berlin shouldn’t concern planes and reservations and certainly not delays and layovers to say nothing of money. And just to close the subject, planes and Typ-Ex also have a lot in common. But none of this concerned us and the conversation continued in new places at new times including new subjects such as maple syrup vs. molasses, terror, more art, nerves, excellent books, difficult people, rooms, watching television, chocolate and supermarkets, more religion, more politics and different versions on connected themes and their colours, meanings, and catastrophes. Chapter Twelve. It snowed. Chapter Thirteen. Having missed the first plane and then the second plane, it was decided that the plane ticket would be thrown away and be replaced by a train ticket that didn’t come with such limitations concerning time and space. This gave room to rest our mouths and ears. One really must not be rushed in mid-conversation by public transport. And then came the night of the Depression Books. Chapter Fourteen. There are very few people who are shown the Depression Books for the simple reason that very few people will understand them the way they are meant to be understood. There were no doubts. It took about two hours to read them. The couch shook beneath us, the tears were wiped away quickly so as to move on to the next one. It is possible we broke a chair. How long ago has it been that the comedy of souls gets its chance to explode into that priceless sound of pure laughter? Countable in a lifetime. Chapter Fifteen. The conversation continues therefore I cannot write Chapter Sixteen which would otherwise read End. May 20, 2003. Jerusalem.